I will be upfront here – I think leaving the EU will be a disaster for the UK across many areas. These range from reinforcing a nationalist and isolationist tendency in the age of globalisation resulting in the UK being left behind by larger and more powerful trading blocs and countries, through to negative impacts on opportunities for European collaboration and funding.
There is a huge question mark over the future of the UK, and it is not completely fanciful to say that the Leave result could lead to the breakup of the UK – both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU.
But I want to provide a brief overview of the practical implications for those interested in developing partnerships and applications for EU funding.
Firstly, in theory, the UK will continue to be eligible to be able to lead, or be a partner in, applications for EU funding – whether for Horizon 2020, Erasmus+, Europe for Citizens and Creative Europe. This will certainly continue until the end of the two-year period that will be triggered when the UK government invokes Article 50 – which at the moment seems likely to be sometime in the autumn.
It is possible that there could be agreement for the UK to be eligible until the final deadlines in 2019 for the current round of these programmes (the current funding round ends in 2020).
The UK will also continue to distribute its share of the EU Structural & Investment Funds via the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Local Enterprise Partnerships in England, and the various designated agencies and partners in the devolved nations and regions of the UK.
Range of possible options
Beyond 2019/2020, however, this is likely to all change, and will be based on which of the several options is the one chosen by the UK for its formal relationship with the EU. There are two clear options and a range of possible alternatives yet to be fully explored.
The first option is for the UK to be a Norway type member. If this option is pursued, then things might not change very much – Norway is eligible to apply as a lead partner or co-organiser for most trans-national funds, for example.
However, this is because Norway is an official member of the single market and pays roughly the same per head as does the UK for the privilege – and also accepts the freedom of movement of EU workers. The problem here is that this is not the sort of post-Brexit UK that has been voted for. So a Norway-type arrangement seems unlikely.
The other option is that the UK is completely independent from the EU with no arrangements or agreements of any sort – like Russia. There are virtually no other European countries that have no arrangements with the EU – Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and even Switzerland are members of either the European Free Trade Association or the European Economic Area, and the Balkan countries and Turkey have committed to joining the EU one day and are therefore classified as ‘candidate’ countries – there are even agreements of one sort or another between the EU and Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
A fully independent UK would mean that UK organisations could only participate in EU funding programmes as a ‘third country’ associate partner, on the same basis as Israel, the USA, Colombia, Australia, Thailand, etc.
There could be options between these extremes, but it seems likely that almost any of these would mean the UK either paying a contribution or signing up to commitments that those who voted leave have rejected, so it is difficult at this stage to see the new arrangement being anywhere as open to the UK as it is currently.
Another obvious impact will be the UK’s eligibility to be European Capital of Culture – its next turn is 2023 and several UK cities have already begun their campaigns. It is difficult to see how this invitation can stand if the UK is not an EU member after 2018/19/20 – and though there have been non-EU cities as capitals of culture in the past (eg Bergen in Norway, or Istanbul in Turkey), these have been in countries who are part of the single market or official candidate countries – the UK will be neither of these.
The bigger picture
In the broader context, there will be implications on visa-free travel (gone), reciprocal healthcare arrangements (most likely gone), tax arrangements when touring (more complicated, at the very least), and more.
The UK’s interactions with the EU will be similar to those with the rest of the world – possible but less easy. Many (larger) arts and cultural organisations will cope, as they currently already manage international touring and collaborations. But for many smaller and middle-scale organisations, and individual artists, the impact will mean fewer opportunities and more complicated arrangements.
There is the bigger picture too. We now live in a globalised world – the UK is a member of around 60 pan-national or international bodies (all of which are far less democratic than the EU) as any country needs such memberships and relationships in order to function.
No country (with the possible exception of North Korea) exists without such memberships and the financial contributions they levy, and having to obey their rules and regulations. The idea that the UK can somehow exist in glorious isolation from global relationships is a mirage. To function outside the EU, the UK will spend the next 5-10 years negotiating or renegotiating arrangements in a huge number of areas.
I could write about the genuine fears that many leave voters have about the impact of EU sanctioned migration, and all the areas where the EU could do things better (or more cheaply) but all that is now irrelevant – the UK no longer has any seat at the EU table and thus no influence on any changes to the way it works. In fact, the EU may well face further challenges from disgruntled citizens across other member states who also feel they would be better off out of it.
The UK’s challenge is to find a new way in the world. The tragedy is that this new way may well be less successful than the way we have been heading, and will certainly be in the context of an isolationist and nationalist mentality that seems to me to be at odds with the way the world is evolving.
This is an edited version of the EUCLID newsletter sent 26 June 2016
EUCLID will continue to run seminars on EU funding opportunities (7 July in London and 13 July in Manchester – see www.euclid.info) and offer advice and guidance to those developing applications.